“There’s more than meets the eye on this property,” said Ashton Berdine, Lands Program Manager for the West Virginia Land Trust, speaking about a Grant County property that the Land Trust recently protected.
In December, Shirley and Cliff Gay together with the West Virginia Land Trust placed a conservation easement that protects their 14-acre property on Knobley Mountain, near Petersburg. The easement includes an agreement that the property’s unique natural features are protected from future development.
“In the beginning, it was all about the view,” said Shirley Gay.
Rock outcrops on the property overlook North Fork Mountain, Dolly Sods, and the Monongahela National Forest.
According to Berdine, the Gay’s eventually learned that the property hosted rare plants associated with dry limestone glades, a habitat found in only a few West Virginia counties.
“Being a relatively small property, this location has a high concentration of plant communities that are unique not only for West Virginia, but also from a global perspective,” Berdine said.
In a survey conducted by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the agency identified 13 rare, threatened, or endangered plants growing on the property. One wildflower, Smokehole bergamot, is found nowhere else in the world except a few locations in eastern West Virginia and Virginia.
“Learning more about the plants on the property helped us appreciate the biodiversity of our land and ultimately inspired us to donate our easement to the West Virginia Land Trust,” Gay said.
In addition to the donors, the land trust worked with the West Virginia University’s Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic to protect the property. The Law Clinic works with the Land Trust to provide law students with hands on experience.
The West Virginia Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund was a key partner in this transaction by contributing monetary support for a stewardship endowment which supports the long-term monitoring of the property. The West Virginia Legislature created the Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund to invest in the conservation of unique and important wildlife habitat, natural areas, forest lands, farmland, and lands for hunting, fishing and recreation.